The morning of my birthday, 5/20/1998, started out as any other day except I was 9 months pregnant and heading to the doctors for my routine check. While there, I found that I was 4 cm dilated and in active labor and sent right to the hospital. Just as with our previous 2 son's births, we did not know the sex of this baby and were anxious to meet our newest family member.
We were thrilled to meet our new son, Benjamin John Hartranft who was born 4 hours later. He has been and will always be my best birthday gift ever.
We had no idea as we gazed at our beautiful new son, what the next 25 years would hold, for which I am very thankful, as it was not the journey we expected.
Our life was full and very busy with 3 active boys under the age of 6. I have learned more about sports, Star Wars, Anime & Pokémon than I care to admit and remember thinking I was going to be the boy mom that did not let them play with toy guns. Then, one day, in answer to the question
"Mom, where is my light saber?"
I responded "I think it is in the weapon box!"
and then I thought "Oh my word, when did we get a weapon box??"
As life moved at this fast pace, we started to notice Ben's development was not on the same track as his brothers. I specifically was honed in on his lack of speech (or the babblings he did in his own made up language) and missed so many other red flags like his delay in fine motor and gross motor skills.
Though a series of events that only God could have orchestrated, we found ourselves with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified) which was a title for a class of autism back in the early 2000's that is not used anymore.
Ben started school at 2 1/2 years old and we started dealing with all of the emotions that came along with the diagnosis. Mostly the fear of the unknown and what this would mean for Ben and his future. If I could go back and tell that stressed mama one thing, it would be
"Do the best you can with each day and trust God for the future."
The picture above, of him doing the Blue's Clues puzzle, is from Easter Seals where he started going to school at age 2 1/2.
The picture below is a full circle moment for me, one that was inconceivable 22 years ago. Ben was invited to present his message to the staff at Easter Seals and he spoke to the entire staff last week encouraging them as they continue to work with students affected by disability. They were so moved to see how far he had come from the little boy who only knew 20 words and frustrated at the drop of a hat.
Fast forward to today, Ben's 25th birthday and he has exceeded all of our expectations and is living his best life. We are so grateful for every professional that poured into Ben and taught us along the way.
Who could ever imagine that little boy who could only say 20 words, would grow up to become the autism advocate and motivational speaker that he is today. Ben has presented over 200 times to audiences of every age and been wildly received by every group. His message resonates with everyone that,
"One kind person can change the world and we need to Go Be The One!"
If you want to read more about Ben's story and the path of his journey, it is all included (the good times and hard times) in our book “Swinging from the Chandelier: Finding Joy in the Journey Through Autism” which is exclusively available on our website.
So happy birthday to my birthday buddy Ben. Can't wait to see what the next 25 years bring!
Go Be the One!